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HG-229283-15
Tracking the Russian Flu in U.S. and German Medical and Popular Reports, 1889-1893
Tom Ewing, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Grant details: https://securegrants.neh.gov/publicquery/main.aspx?f=1&gn=HG-229283-15

Tracking the Russian Flu (Web Resources)
Title: Tracking the Russian Flu
Author: Tom Ewing
Abstract: This project examines medical discussion as well as news reporting during the Russian influenza epidemic, from its outbreak in late 1889 through the successive waves that lasted through 1893. It will collect English and German-language reports in digitized newspapers and medical journals, leading to the first comprehensive searchable documentation of the disease. The data will be used to extract facts and timelines regarding the disease, investigate medical and public reaction to the spreading epidemic and research how medical knowledge was disseminated via popular reporting. As a bilingual project, developing methods and tools that work across both English-language and German-language sources, this project offers unique insights into a historical era when transnational medical research and global news reporting were important parts of the collective human experience
Year: 2015
Primary URL: http://ethomasewing.org/russianflu/tracking-russian-flu/

La Grippe or Russian influenza: Mortality statistics during the 1890 Epidemic in Indiana (Article)
Title: La Grippe or Russian influenza: Mortality statistics during the 1890 Epidemic in Indiana
Author: Ewing, E. Thomas
Abstract: BACKGROUND: The Russian influenza, which began in late 1889, has long been recognized as a major global epidemic yet available statistical evidence for morbidity and mortality has not been fully examined using historical and epidemiological tools. This study of cases and deaths in Indiana during the extended time period associated with the Russian influenza is the first scholarly effort to determine the number of victims from this influenza outbreak across a broad regional case study in the US. METHODS: The sources for this study include historical records from the US Census, Annual Reports from the Indiana State Board of Health, and death notices published in newspapers. The available evidence is analyzed using historical and epidemiological methods to determine the consistency of reporting categories, the accuracy of death records, and the applicability of contemporary categories for measuring mortality. RESULTS: In the 3 years during and following the outbreak of "Russian influenza" in January 1890 in the state of Indiana, approximately 3200 died specifically of this disease while a total of 11 700 died of influenza and other respiratory diseases. These results confirm that extremely widespread influenza contributed to higher than normal death rates by causing additional deaths in related categories, especially pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. CONCLUSIONS: More reliable and thorough analysis of morbidity and mortality during the Russian influenza based on systematic and critical review of local, regional, and national statistics can inform contemporary understanding of the long-term history of influenza epidemics.
Year: 2019
Primary URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/irv.12632
Primary URL Description: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/irv.12632
Secondary URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30756469
Access Model: Open access
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses
Publisher: Wiley

“The Two Diseases Are So Utterly Dissimilar”: Using Digital Humanities Tools to Advance Scholarship in the Global History of Medicine (Article)
Title: “The Two Diseases Are So Utterly Dissimilar”: Using Digital Humanities Tools to Advance Scholarship in the Global History of Medicine
Author: Ewing, E. Thomas
Abstract: The Russian influenza, which first received broad attention in St. Petersburg in November 1889 and spread across Europe and into the Americas over the next two months, occurred at a critical moment in the development of mass journalism, medical knowledge, and information technology. In this context, the question of whether “influenza is the forerunner of cholera” was prompted by a single statement by Russian physician Nikolai Fedorovich Zdekauer, made during a scholarly meeting in St. Petersburg yet quickly disseminated globally through newspapers and medical journals. Tracing the reporting on Zdekauer’s statement reveals how quickly misinformation could be transmitted on a global scale at a time of heightened concern about the threat of widespread disease. Yet these same sources, including newspapers and medical journals, also demonstrate how quickly both the leading authorities in medical science and publications aimed at public audiences questioned these reports and presented authoritative alternatives based on reasoned analysis. Affirming the dissimilarity of influenza and cholera also served to affirm the value of a public sphere which allowed for measured discussion, thoughtful intervention, and the articulation of an emerging scientific consensus about disease etiology.
Year: 2018
Primary URL: http://crdh.rrchnm.org/essays/v01-12-the-two-diseases-are-so-utterly-dissimilar/
Secondary URL: https://doi.org/10.31835/crdh.2018.12
Access Model: Open access
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Current Research in Digital History
Publisher: Center for History and New Media, George Mason University

Dr. Shrady Says: The 1890 Russian Influenza as a Case Study for Understanding Epidemics in History (Blog Post)
Title: Dr. Shrady Says: The 1890 Russian Influenza as a Case Study for Understanding Epidemics in History
Author: Kimmerly, Veronica
Author: Ewing, E. Thomas
Author: Ewing-Nelson, Sinclair
Abstract: In early January 1890, an especially widespread outbreak of influenza that had quickly spread across Europe now seemed likely to reach the United States. Responding to this perceived danger, the Medical Record, a weekly journal, published an editorial on January 4, 1890, by Dr. George F. Shrady, which proclaimed with great certainty that a disease “of such a mild type” did not pose any serious danger to the American people. After describing common symptoms and recommended treatments for a disease popularly known as “the grip,” Shrady reassured the public that “the epidemic of influenza” was neither unusual nor dangerous. This editorial quickly reached a much broader audience when newspapers across the United States republished most or all of the text or referenced the journal’s authoritative statements about the disease. By examining the dissemination of information along with the spread of disease, this case study explores the complex relationship between medical expertise and public sentiments during a public health crisis.
Date: 8/29/2016
Primary URL: http://www.medicalheritage.org/2016/08/29/dr-shrady-says-the-1890-russian-influenza-as-a-case-study-for-understanding-epidemics-in-history/
Blog Title: Medical Heritage Library

Will It Come Here? Using Digital Humanities Tools to Explore Medical Understanding during the Russian Flu Epidemic, 1889–90 (Article)
Title: Will It Come Here? Using Digital Humanities Tools to Explore Medical Understanding during the Russian Flu Epidemic, 1889–90
Author: Ewing, E. Thomas
Abstract: On December 18, 1889, the Detroit Free Press asked an intriguing question in the headline: ‘Will It Come Here?’ 1 The ‘It’ in the headline was the so-called ‘Russian Flu’, an outbreak of influenza that was first noticed on a global scale in St Petersburg, the capital of Russia. 2 As this disease spread across Europe, American medical authorities as well as the popular press expressed increasing concern about whether the disease would cross the Atlantic and reach the United States. 3 To answer this question, newspaper reporters all over the country, as in this Detroit Free Press article, turned to local authorities, doctors and physicians from their cities, who were asked to share their opinion about influenza. In this same period, many medical journals published editorials commenting on the spread of the disease, the likely course of further development and the means for preventing or treating outbreaks. This paper examines comments by local doctors published in the Detroit Free Press and one editorial published in Medical Age, a semi-monthly journal also published in Detroit, as a way to introduce a broader research project engaged in three innovative methods that link the digital humanities and medical history: comparing medical reporting in daily newspapers and medical journals to explore connections across local, regional, national and international levels; combining traditional historical methods of close reading with new tools available for large-scale textual analysis; and developing methods that engage undergraduate students as research collaborators at every stage of the process.
Year: 2017
Primary URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2017.53
Access Model: Open access
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Medical History
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Look Out for 'La Grippe': Using Digital Humanities Tools to Interpret Information Dissemination during the Russian Flu, 1889-90 (Article)
Title: Look Out for 'La Grippe': Using Digital Humanities Tools to Interpret Information Dissemination during the Russian Flu, 1889-90
Author: Ewing-Nelson, Sinclair
Author: Ewing, E. Thomas
Author: Kimmerly, Veronica
Abstract: This article explores a digital humanities approach to medical history that takes advantage of the great expansion of texts accessible through digitised collections to facilitate synthetic analysis across layers of experience, from the global to the national and regional, down to the local and even the personal. Digital humanities methods, in other words, allow historians to explore more sources with new tools while also enhancing traditional techniques of close reading and layered analysis.
Year: 2016
Primary URL: https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2015.84
Access Model: Open access
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Medical History
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

REVEALING DATA: USING TERM FREQUENCY TO CHART INFLUENZA REPORTING (Blog Post)
Title: REVEALING DATA: USING TERM FREQUENCY TO CHART INFLUENZA REPORTING
Author: Ewing, E. Thomas
Author: Hargreaves, Ian
Author: King, Jessica
Author: Talnagi, Tyler
Abstract: Historical medical journals provide unique perspectives on the development of expert understanding of transmission, morbidity, and impact during an epidemic. Examining the ways that medical journals contributed to the spread of information, evaluation of interpretations, and creation of new knowledge in a specific historical process can contribute to current discussions about the relationship between expert perspectives and public understanding. Information on the Russian Influenza (1889–1890) in the British Medical Journal offers an excellent case study for evaluating historical significance and contemporary relevance.
Date: 11/14/2018
Primary URL: https://circulatingnow.nlm.nih.gov/2018/11/14/revealing-data-using-term-frequency-to-chart-influenza-reporting/
Blog Title: Circulating Now
Website: Circulating Now, History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine


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